ALBANY -- Octavia Jones, one of the top track coaches in Georgia, knows all about hurdles, and he has just one left before becoming the new football coach at Westover High School.
Dougherty County's Athletic Committee approved Jones on Tuesday morning and all that stands in front of Jones and the Westover job is the approval of the Dougherty County School Board, which will vote Monday night.
"I'm just praying the vote goes my way because I'm excited about the opportunity,'' Jones told The Herald on Tuesday afternoon.
Jones, who has led Monroe's boys and girls to a total of four state track & field titles, is currently the Tornadoes' defensive backs coach and special teams coordinator. He also spent five years as Monroe's co-defensive coordinator from 1999 through 2004. He has been an assistant football coach for 11 years, and the head boys and girls track coach at Monroe since 2002. He was the assistant track & field coach from 1999 until 2002, and also coached soccer his first two years at Monroe.
Jones said Tuesday he has no plans to coach track & field at Westover.
"Westover has a fine track & field program, and if I'm fortunate enough to get the job my focus will be on the football program,'' said Jones, whose boys and girls track teams both won state titles last year and could repeat this season. "I think I've done all I can do in track and field. I have always wanted to be a head football coach, and this is a great opportunity.''
Even though he has never been a head football coach, Jones believes he brings the right recipe for success. And if any program needed a fresh approach it's Westover, where the football team has had anything but success.
Westover's tradition in football is a sad one. The Patriots have had only four winning seasons in the history of the school (45 years), and only one winning season since 1993 -- and that was only an 8-5 mark in 2007. They are coming off a 3-7 season in which they won only one region game, and they've won only 13 region games since 2000.
Jones believes he can change that.
"I think I can make a difference, and build a program and
do the same as I did in track,'' Jones said. "I have the ability to inspire and get the best out of student-athletes.''
Jones also believes Westover has the type of athletes to win on Friday nights.
"I want to build the program from the ground up,'' Jones said. "You have to change the mindset. You have to make them believe they can win. Once you get them to believe they can win, the sky's the limit. The athletes are in place. It's the mindset that has to be different.''
You can't get much more grass roots than Jones, who was born in Albany, starred at Monroe High, and earned a football scholarship to Albany State, where he then starred in football and was an NCAA Division II All-American in track & field.
Jones, 34, was an undergraduate assistant coach at Albany State for one year before getting hired at Monroe.
"I have the knowledge of the game,'' Jones said. "But it's not just Xs and Os. I have the ability to (motivate) them and get the best out of them.''